UN agencies team up to fight AIDS, chronic hunger

UN agencies team up to fight AIDS, chronic hunger

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Two United Nations agencies today formally joined forces to cope with the growing links between HIV/AIDS, regional food shortages and chronic hunger in a bid to save millions of lives – especially in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

“Food aid plays a pivotal role in responding to HIV/AIDS. The first thing poor families affected by AIDS ask for is not cash or drugs, it is food. And food has to be one of the weapons in the arsenal against this disease,” said James T. Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), which signed the cooperative agreement at its Executive Board meeting in Rome with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Under the agreement, WFP and UNAIDS will direct their joint efforts to emergency situations with a special focus on pregnant women and orphans, among the most vulnerable to the impact of HIV/AIDS. At the same time, they will strive to make food security an integral part of the battle waged by governments and partners against HIV/AIDS.

WFP will manage the HIV/AIDS-related food programmes, while UNAIDS will offer technical assistance, promoting access to care, including home-based care, impact evaluation, the reduction of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, and the identification of appropriate local partners.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic and the hunger it brings with it, are triggering the premature death of thousands of productive people – particularly women – across southern Africa, as well as wrecking the livelihoods of millions more, which will undoubtedly provoke future famines,” Mr. Morris said, having recently been in Africa, home to around three quarters of the 42 million people around the globe currently living with HIV/AIDS.

“People living with HIV/AIDS as well as those who are malnourished are caught in a vicious cycle,” UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said. “Those who are infected are often unable to feed themselves. Without good nutrition, they are robbed of one of the defences against AIDS-related illnesses and early death.

“At the same time, hunger often forces people to engage in high-risk survival strategies, such as sex work, which in turn exposes them to HIV,” Dr. Piot added. “It is vital that food security be integrated in the response to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS.”